Missouri lawmakers propose ways to help working inmates get jobs

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COLUMBIA - Getting a job after getting out of prison may seem like the impossible to most; however, Missouri lawmakers are proposing ways to help working inmates get employed prior to release. 

The Missouri House of Representatives held a public hearing Wednesday regarding ways the Department of Corrections can perform specified actions to improve the ability of working inmates to obtain employment upon release from incarceration.

The bill requires the Department of Corrections to participate in the Federal Bonding Program so that:

  • all working inmates are bonded prior to release ;
  • review the types of jobs available for inmates while incarcerated to determine which jobs would be eligible for certification and ensure that any inmate who has completed the necessary requirements for certification in a particular field does receive certification ;
  • and issue a worker certificate to any inmate who has worked in one or more types of jobs that are not eligible for certification containing information regarding each job and a list of the skills acquired or demonstrated.

The program would apply to any inmate who wants to participate. The goals would be similar to some existing programs in mid-Missouri but would have a wider reach. 

Job Point is one Columbia center that is aiming to help former inmates with employment. 

Job Point's mission is to link people and jobs by providing career planning and job placement assistance. It specializes in preparing individuals to enter the workforce.

In relation to people who have criminal records, Job Point helps them successfully get back into society. 

Job Point participant Richard Baldwin said he doesn't have a criminal record but can only imagine how hard it is for people who do because he faced challenges finding employment. 

Baldwin said he was walking past Job Point, and something told him to stop by. He said the visit turned into a job opportunity. 

"They assisted me with it, and I got a grant to do the course. I'm going to take the course for Highway Heavy Construction, and today I went through the last steps for the course," Baldwin said. 

He said he stopped at Job Point because he wanted to better himself. 

"I never did anything like this before. I'm from New Jersey, I'm used to street stuff, hanging on the corners, doing this doing that. Then I got into a car accident that put me in a coma and killed my boys, and when I woke up from the coma months later my mindset changed and I just wanted to better myself," Baldwin said. 

Job Point recruiter Tyree Byndom said their reentry services is an opportunity for people to get back into the flow of being citizens. 

"They're human beings, they made a mistake, could've made mistakes multiple times due to whatever the situation is. But reentry to us means any individual that's coming back home, everyone of them is coming back home, less than two percent stay [in prison] forever," Byndom says. 

Job Point provides the following reentry services: 

  • Employment Readiness Workshops
  • Job Placement Assistance and Support
  • Adult Education & Literacy/GED Preparation
  • Assessment of Personal Support Needs
  • Referral to other Human Service Entities
  • Backpacks Filled with Personal Hygiene Products
  • Bus Passes are provided
  • Family Re-unification Services
  • Computer Training
  • Training for Career in Highway/Heavy Construction
  • Housing Assistance
  • Anger Management Classes
  • Reentry Counseling Classes may be available
  • Additional Items may be supplied as needed

The proposed effective date for the bill is August 28. As of now, Missouri House of Representatives has not scheduled the next hearing. 

 

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